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Harmful chemicals found in oil field water used for irrigation

Harmful chemicals found in oil field water used for irrigation thumbnail

Testing of recycled oil field wastewater used on about 45,000 acres of farmland in the Central Valley shows the water contains small amounts of potentially harmful chemicals, including oil, benzene and acetone.

Local water regulators in April ordered comprehensive testing of the irrigation water to check for the presence of chemicals used in oil production.

As California’s drought continues, more companies and irrigation districts are seeking permits to sell and use treated oil field water. The heightened interest has raised concerns over the adequacy of current safety measures to prevent produce from being contaminated by oil production fluids.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has formed a committee to examine the issue and analyze the recent test results. The group of experts from the California Department of Public Health and the state Department of Food and Agriculture will advise water officials about food safety.

Chevron sells 21 million gallons of treated oil field wastewater per day to the Cawelo Water District, which provides water to 90 Kern County farmers. Before releasing it to the district, Chevron treats the wastewater in settling ponds and through other processes designed to remove contaminants.

Chevron submitted results of its wastewater tests to the water board on Monday, the deadline for filing the data.

According to the 138-page report, a laboratory analysis found acetone at levels ranging from 31 parts per billion to 150 parts per billion. Acetone is an industrial solvent that is a toxic carcinogen.

Benzene was present in trace amounts in the samples, according to the lab report. California regulations do not allow benzene at any level in drinking water. There is no state standard for benzene in irrigation water.

All of Chevron’s samples contained oil molecules called total petroleum hydrocarbons, but at concentrations considered safe for drinking and well below the maximum level set in the water recycling program’s permit.

“All test results showed that water supplied by Chevron to the Cawelo Water District is in compliance with its existing permit,” the company said in a statement. “Chevron’s water reuse operation has run appropriately for the benefit of California agriculture and in accordance with all regulatory requirements.”

The samples were taken from five different points, including ponds that contain water from Chevron’s oil operations and a reservoir that contained water from Chevron and other oil producers. The samples were analyzed by Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure Inc. in Fresno.

The water board and the advisory committee have not yet reviewed all the test results submitted by Chevron and other oil producers. Hundreds of samples were tested from various Kern County oil field wastewater sites.

“We are working our way through the process,” said Clay Rodgers, assistant executive officer of the regional water board. “This is a priority issue for us. If the food safety experts find a problem, we will stop it and we will stop it immediately.”

Even if irrigation water contains toxic substances, experts say that microorganisms in soil can consume some impurities and plants have the ability to process certain contaminants. It’s not clear whether oil field waste can make its way into the roots or leaves of irrigated plants, and then into the food chain.

“There’s not an abundance of knowledge,” on the topic, Rodgers said.

What is known, he said, is that exposure to chemicals such as acetone may lead to long-term, chronic ailments and should be monitored over time.

David Ansolabehere, general manager of the Cawelo Water District, said the agency is evaluating the test results.

Some of the chemicals identified in the Chevron report were also found in water samples that were collected in March and tested by environmental nonprofit Water Defense. Chevron has questioned the group’s sampling methods and the lab results.

Water Defense’s testing detected acetone and methylene chloride, a powerful industrial solvent, in treated water drawn from Cawelo’s irrigation canal. Chevron did not provide lab results for that chemical in test results reported this week.

Rodgers said he asked both firms to test for methylene chloride and report the results to the water board.

Chevron said in its statement that it would provide test results on methylene chloride.

The lab report Chevron submitted suggested that the source of the acetone was not the company’s operations, but that it was a byproduct of a naturally occurring breakdown of hydrocarbons.

That is one possible explanation, said John Griffith, coordinator of molecular technology at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, a publicly funded research agency. But no matter its source, he said, the acetone is toxic.

Until this spring, the water agency only required testing for the presence of naturally occurring contaminants such as benzene and salts. In part because of the urgency to use recycled water, the agency is now asking oil companies to test the water more broadly for chemicals used to drill and maintain wells.

“We need to make sure we are sampling for the right stuff,” Rodgers said.

LA Times

23 Comments on "Harmful chemicals found in oil field water used for irrigation"

  1. rockman on Sat, 20th Jun 2015 10:14 am 

    Such is life when you try farming in such an arid region. So different in La and even the arid S Texas: we don’t allow dumping that potential crap on the ground. In fact in La if I’m drilling in a designated wet lands area I can’t even pump rain water off my location: have to haul it to a disposal well. In CA apparently beggars can’t be too picky. But it’s still up to the politicians to set the standards…not the oil patch.

  2. Apneaman on Sat, 20th Jun 2015 11:03 am 

    rockman it must be nice to walk around not feeling one fucking bit responsible or concerned that what you do is speeding up the process of making everyone you know suffer and possible die an early horrible death. Like that home coming queen in Texas – you know from the climate change amplified deluge. Truly you spend far too much time proclaiming your innocence and defending your life’s work. I was just following the Fuhrer’s orders- – sieg heil pardner

    88% of Congress On Gas Industry Payroll As Campaign Donations Hit Record Level –

    See more at:

  3. rockman on Sat, 20th Jun 2015 1:54 pm 

    A – And exactly how do you feel about your part in “speeding up the process of making everyone you know suffer and possible die an early horrible death”?

  4. Makati1 on Sat, 20th Jun 2015 11:47 pm 

    Rockman: So you haul it to another location and THEN dump it into the water table? Typical capitalist answer to the problem of local laws, ship the problem to another location with a bought off politician. I assume that the drilling waste water also goes into those ‘disposal’ wells? Too bad those disposal wells are not on your personal property.

  5. Makati1 on Sat, 20th Jun 2015 11:53 pm 

    Rockman, I once thought that you were a decent human being, but I see that you are no better than the slimy politicians you buy off. Money, not morals is your creed. Blaming the consumers of your product does NOT absolve you of your guilt. Sounds like a drug pusher’s excuse after they have addicted their customers. Quit your job if you are serious about cleaning up the world and stop making excuses for your part in it.

  6. antaris on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 12:02 am 

    Mak, we are all complicit. Call Rock a PCs of shit then go look in the mirror, and you are looking shitty too.

  7. Apneaman on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 12:40 am 

    Shity rockman, A big part of the reason I quit boilermaking 10 years ago was because of it. It is also why I have been living on less then 12 grand a year for the last 5 years even though I have more. Lot a good leading by example did. Fuck all. They all think I lost it. Glad I never had kids.

  8. Outcast_Searcher on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 4:38 am 

    OK Apneaman, so you never had kids and you are living on a small income. To the extent that minimizes your carbon footprint that helps. (I also have no kids and attempt to live with a relatively small carbon footprint. I however have no claim to be a leader — just doing my own bit as my ability and conscience dictates).

    You claiming you’re better than everyone else who isn’t just like you is more likely to make most people ignore you instead of join you. If you’re going to “lead by example”, IMO you need to be positive (on balance) to be effective.

    Do you use fossil fuels much? If you use fossil fuels to heat/cool/power your home, to drive, to travel, or in the products you buy (including green energy products), you are still using fossil fuels.

    People like rockman are working to provide the energy that the global community wants and needs. If he doesn’t do the work, someone else who needs the job will. So why rain hate on him instead of on all of us consumers or on the politicians voting for policies or standards (on our behalf)?

    rockman, thanks for your work and for doing it honestly (per regulatory standards). Even though I don’t like war, I never get mad at the soldiers doing their jobs the best they can.

  9. Outcast_Searcher on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 4:42 am 

    For all the negative (toward rockman) commenters on this thread, how is this any different than the “green energy advocates” who consume lots of fossil fuels for travel, etc. attending international conferences, etc. to “support being green”?

  10. Boat on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 5:48 am 

    I like fossil fuels, gonna use more of them. I give a shout out to Rock for working to get me more. Don’t listen to these airheads who some how pretend they are better because they have a smaller footprint. Get a job and get a car that gets 50+ mph. Buy a new house that is zero energy. Use grey water to keep your lawn up. That is my kind of living. And have kids thaT WILL TQ

  11. Boat on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 5:49 am 

    I like fossil fuels, gonna use more of them. I give a shout out to Rock for working to get me more. Don’t listen to these airheads who some how pretend they are better because they have a smaller footprint. Get a job and get a car that gets 50+ mph. Buy a new house that is zero energy. Use grey water to keep your lawn up. That is my kind of living.

  12. Davy on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 6:26 am 

    Ape Man, I like you man. You got hard hitting data and you are a dedicate commenter here. You and me have differences but for the most part we are part of a band of doomer brothers. As a friend I am going to tell you I disagree with your negativity towards the Rock.

    All of us are complicit in this rape of the world and none of us. Ape you are complicit just being alive now. If you truly want to be honorable and do the right thing mouth a gun and eliminate some human poison from the earth. There is no you are bad you are good in this respect. On another level we did not asked to be born into this life so none of us are to blame.

    We were not told about consequences of modern man until recently. We like to think we could have done something in the 70’s with club of Rome and Jimmy Carter but the reality I see there is no way to change a complex global system with too many people. We had too many people in the 70’s and it is much worse now.

    You bark and crow about climate change constantly here. I read all your post and appreciate them. But you know what? There is nothing we can fucking do about it. We are cooked economically because we must grow or die. I am talking billions of deaths if globalism fails. We are running on empty with our vital commodity oil that supports this global system but also allows our climate suicide. We are fried environmentally and in particular with the climate. We would have to stop nearly all human activity to make a difference. There is no way we can even allow a small reduction in growth and keep our system running that supports 7BIL people. God forbid we have a descent of 10-20 percent in economic activity. That folks is collapse with serious consequences.

    There is nothing we can do now but prepare a global hospice for serious excess death over births starting in a few short years. We should prepare mitigation and adaptation policies for the die offs from systematic collapse and climate change that are in the pipeline. This die off will likely be on average 200MIL a year for as long as it takes or we reach 500MIL – 1BIL. Most likely these excess births over deaths will be punctuated by mass die offs of 2 or 3 times that quoted average as locals with no sustainability are wipe clean.

    This population reduction along with a failure of growth will rebalance consumption but not in time to save us. This rebalance will likely be very messy and dirty in the beginning until population numbers drastically fall. Who knows how long it will take to get to a much lower population. NUK war would be quick but global cooperation with proper policies could be a long emergency. We will likely see a period of mass ecosystem destruction as desperate people vie for the last scrapes of food and biomass to heat and cook with once we have systematic collapse of a population in mass overshoot.

    Ape Man, lay off Rock please. The guy contributes good information that is useful to us here. Just because he produces hydrocarbons does not make him bad. This is just like saying just because you are human you are not bad. What level does good or evil begin? At which point on that graduated level do you want to start finger pointing? When do you want to start playing God?

  13. Davy on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 6:38 am 

    Mak said “Rockman, I once thought that you were a decent human being, but I see that you are no better than the slimy politicians you buy off.” Mak I never have though you a good person. You are a slimy coward living in a third world slum off an American social security check. You blathering slim and filth daily on the digital airwaves. Your agenda is a false one blaming all the worlds’ ills on the US and then glorifying an Asia that is destroying the world and complicit in the same crimes the US participates in. Your comments are mean and insightful. You glorify war especially NUK war.

    You are a bloodthirsty less than human creature that the world would be better off not having around. You are just a 70 year old piece of shit taking good resources daily that could be given to someone younger that maybe could do something with it. You are a coward that left his family for selfish reasons then salivates over the idea of a NUK war that destroys their home. Do you tell your family this when you carbon whore your way home on the big jet airplane to visit your dying mom?

    No Mak, you are a piece of shit not worth even wasting a handful of toilet paper on. Crawl back into your slum hole in the heart of your turd world Philippine city. See what happens when you throw shit on someone of high caliber and respect here on this board. Please throw your slim and blather on me because I find it an honor when scum bags like you retort negativity on me. It is a great honor to meet my adversary in battle.

  14. Makati1 on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 7:48 am 

    Davy, you talk as if your opinion matters. It doesn’t. As one of the 1%, you are as guilty as rockman, and brag about being in the Bahamas in the winter with your elite family. Don’t give me the bullshit about your ‘family obligations’ to be there. Let them stay with you on the farm instead. Maybe you are afraid of losing your inheritance?

    My comment stands.

  15. davy on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 9:11 am 

    Good Mak, how about this “one hypocrite to another”. At least I didn’t desert my family and I stick up for my friends. Your just a delusional old scum bag who is extremely selfish and crusty. You remind me of Ebeneezer Scrooge without the happy ending.

  16. BobInget on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 12:48 pm 

    If these gratuitous personal attacks continue,
    none of us are going to understand ALL the issues surrounding ‘peak oil’, climate changes, economic collapse or not, conflict resolution or not, individual responsibility,
    capitalism or any ‘ism’, Afghanistan or any ‘stan’. What constitutes ‘renewable energies,’
    sustainable energies, alternative energy?

    Is ethanol or methanol viable for North America? Is centralized power viable?
    Will a smart grid bring happiness?

    Should GMO medicine be banned?
    Biotech, if it permits people to live an extended life, is that a good thing?
    Should we embrace both science and deeply held religious beliefs?

    Is meat eating sustainable?
    Should abortion become the alternative to
    limited access birth control?

    Is it interesting, informative, to discover what people from other regions of this nation or others are thinking?

    Was the invention of the white light LED a turning point for civilization?

    Is it better for billionaires to plow millions into political campaigns or design, build self driving electric cars, reusable space vehicles
    and home energy storage?

    Is it better for CA to build rapid short and longer distance public transit or water pipelines?

    Can we tell ‘spam’ when we see it?
    Do we know when someone is trying to kill or change the character of a board?

  17. Apneaman on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 2:15 pm 

    Outcast_Searcher, feel free to dig up anything where I claimed I’m better then anyone else. Don’t put words in my mouth. That was the first time in a year of posting on this site where I mentioned what steps I have taken or how I live (feel free to check). If anything I’ve been quite open about my part in work and play,, logging, boilermaking, flying, consuming, born white and middle class Canadian, etc. I am simply being honest and asking others to stop bullshitting and justifying. My self imposed poverty (not all that bad) was as much as an experiment as anything. If you pay real close attention to my comments you will notice that I never say anyone or society “needs to” or “should” do anything. Cause and effect is what I preach and calling out bullshit. If you or others think I’m an asshole all or some of the time, you’ll get no real argument from me there – just another emotional ape.

  18. Apneaman on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 2:23 pm 

    I’m innocent – completely – pure as the driven snow.

    Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts Mistakes were made cover image.jpg
    Author Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson
    Cover artist Jennifer Jackman
    Country United States
    Language English
    Subject Psychology
    Publisher Harcourt
    Publication date
    Media type Hardcover
    Pages 298
    ISBN 978-0-15-101098-1
    OCLC 71005837
    Dewey Decimal
    153 22
    LC Class BF337.C63 T38 2007

    Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) is a non-fiction book by social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, first published in 2007. It deals with cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias and other cognitive biases, using these psychological theories to illustrate how the perpetrators (and victims) of hurtful acts justify and rationalize their behavior. It describes a positive feedback loop of action and self-deception by which slight differences between people’s attitudes become polarized.

  19. davy on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 2:31 pm 

    Ape man, for some reason people like to hear what assholes have to say. They will never admit it though. One thing about an enlightened asshole is they cut through the shit and call out the weenies. That is what appeals to me in the age of bullshit. Sorry folks for the potty mouth but that was too the point and hard to translate non-potty mouth.

    Bob, come on, mental sparing is part of a healthy board. How many knock em up and drag em out fights do we have? Not many. We all here tend to group censor. We rid the board of pests as needed.

  20. GregT on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 3:14 pm 

    “If these gratuitous personal attacks continue…..”

    My guess is that as this mess continues to unfold, the “personal attacks” will become widespread, and they won’t be limited to verbal attacks or small weapons fire.

  21. Makati1 on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 8:23 pm 

    Apneaman, I like pulling Davy’s chain. He is so brainwashed about current events that he is actually funny. And admitting that he is part of the 1%, no matter how much he denies it, is only proof that he cannot be impartial. He was raised that way. I enjoy his jibes as they are usually Sinophobic or Rusophobic and obvious to anyone living outside the US MSM Iron Curtain.

    Amazing how anyone can be anything or anyone on the internet. That is why I always check new sources of info. Most times, the articles/spin can be connected to the US when they sound too far out to be real. The ‘exceptional’ country believes it’s own BS. Goebbels would be envious.

  22. Makati1 on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 8:30 pm 

    GregT, sometimes the recipient asks for it. Think Nony, etc.

    Sometimes it is in rebuttal for some stupid remark.

    Some cannot avoid it because they are bullies.

    Sometimes, it is just for the fun of it because it is so easy. ^_^

    But, you are correct. The guns will come out someday and that is one reason I am here in the Ps. Much safer than the US. I invited my family to come and live on the farm, but no takers. Their decision. I think about them, but it is their life, and their right to choose. I visit them once a year, until my mom passes and then I will never go back. She is 89 so I have few trips in the future. Good luck!

  23. Kenz300 on Mon, 22nd Jun 2015 7:16 am 

    We all need clean air to breathe and safe water to drink.

    No person or company should be poisoning our collective environment.

    For Faithful, Social Justice Goals Demand Action on Environment – The New York Times

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